Scheer accepts security briefing on India trip but insists MPs hear some of it

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Andrew ScheerOttawa: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has agreed to the government’s offer of a classified briefing from the national security adviser about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India, but not without some strings attached.

Since the government insists Daniel Jean’s original media briefing last month included no classified information, Scheer says it should have no problem having journalists and Tory MPs sit in on the non-secret portions of his briefing.

During the India trip, Jean told a background briefing with reporters travelling with the prime Minister in India that rogue forces within the Indian government were ultimately the ones responsible for the Jaspal Atwal affair. He gave similar briefings to reporters in Canada that same day.

Jean gave the updates as an unnamed senior government official but was publicly identified by the Conservatives after the trip was over.

Atwal was invited to a pair of receptions with Trudeau despite having been convicted three decades ago of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in the name of Sikh independence. After his appearance at the first of the receptions in Mumbai, Jean said the government was made aware of his identity and an invite to a second reception in Delhi was rescinded.

The damage was done, however, as photos of Atwal posing at the first reception with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, were given to the media.

Jean’s working theory was that Indian agents who fear the global rise of Sikh independence orchestrated the controversy in an attempt to embarrass Canada and undermine the entire trip.

Jean suggested Atwal was closely connected to members of the Indian consulate in Vancouver, and said it was strange that the ban on Atwal travelling to India was lifted by Indian authorities after more than three decades.

There was nothing in the way of actual evidence given to support the theory.

The Conservatives, however, say they believe Jean disclosed classified details in those briefings to the media which is why the government refused to give the same briefing publicly to Conservative MPs after being asked to do so.

The government insists otherwise, and has offered to do a full briefing, complete with classified information, to Scheer, who is eligible to hear such details as a member of the Privy Council.

Until now Scheer has refused that offer, but he changed his mind Tuesday.

There was no response from the government as to whether it would agree to Scheer’s conditions or when the briefing would take place.

By Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press